Come Live With Me proved to be one of three films in release during 1941 that featured James Stewart. With the advent of WW2, Stewart would be off the screen for the next five years returning in the sentimental classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. This outing paired him with Louis B. Mayer’s pet project, the stunning Hedy Lamarr.
It’s all a rather weak attempt of the screwball variety. Director/writer Clarence Brown does his best to pull at the heart strings while not so subtly delivering a message to America and the free world of the impending doom that lies ahead overseas for the world at large.
A “modern marriage” in 1941 would appear to be an open one by today’s standards. Verree Teasdale and Ian Hunter have just that. She goes her way for a night on the town while Hunter takes off to see his lady in waiting, Miss Lamarr. It’s upon this romantic visit to her swank apartment that department of immigration officer, Barton MacLane arrives at the door. Tough as nails Barton is here to see that she is deported as her passport has expired. One look at the smoldering Hedy and good old Bart is wavering in his duties.
Cue the propaganda speech without actually naming names.
Hedy makes it clear that death awaits her overseas and admits her father was killed for his beliefs. The peaceful home she knew in Austria no longer exists.
Barton cracks and gives her a week and some sound advice. Get married and she can stay. Paging Jimmy Stewart!
Jimmy’s a down on his luck writer with but a dime in his pocket. This leads to a funny vignette with Donald Meek as a bum and panhandler who thinks Jimmy has what it takes to be a successful bum. It’s while trying to buy a cup of coffee with his last coin that Jimmy’s luck and life are about to change.
It’s here that Jimmy will meet Hedy and though the script doesn’t come out and say it, he thinks she’s a lady of the night who comes to his apartment to conduct business. Not quite though she is there to propose a marriage of convenience. He’s broke and she apparently has money. He’s single and can offer her asylum by saying I do. It’s a deal.
This is strictly a marriage in title only. Hedy drops in weekly to pass on some funds to Jimmy and continues seeing her lover Hunter. Jimmy on the other hand has fleshed out a novel based on his situation and being married to a mysterious lady with a lover and life he knows nothing of. His character on the written page like himself is falling for the beauty he’s wedded to.
Jimmy sends the manuscripts to various publishers which will trigger the final half of the film’s romantic triangle. Hedy’s lover Ian Hunter is one of those publishers prompting his wife Miss Teasdale to buy the unpublished novel from Jimmy and inspiring him to write an end to it that works for him and not Hunter.
Watchable yet unmemorable might be the best way to describe this black and white effort from the studio era. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that making her film debut at the age of 79 playing Stewart’s grand mother is Adeline de Walt Reynolds. Incredibly she’d amass a number of credits to her name and continue acting to the age of 98!
Perhaps less dramatics and a more central focus on the screwball angle would have served this cast better.
Still if your a fan of the leads you’ll want to have a look which was my thinking exactly.